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Winter is coming on, and I can just about smell and taste the soups and stews bubbling on the stove and fresh bread baking in the oven.  To me, only Love warms the soul as much as this dinner combination.  And if you are Simply Living, this means a large portion of this meal was grown and created by your own hands.  Double yum!

When putting together most soups, you will find yourself reaching in your cabinet for herbs and spices, to give your final product its delicious flavor.  But did you know that too many of the spices you purchase in the store are already losing their flavor, even before you get them home?  Why sacrifice all that deliciousness?  Maybe it’s time you start growing some of them on your own.

Two herbs that are delicious in winter meals are Thyme and Rosemary.  Fortunately they are also easy to grow in containers.  Before you moan that you really don’t want year-round indoor herbs to care for, remember that these are also easy to transplant into your garden, or grow in containers outside.  It really is a win/win situation.  Besides, wouldn’t you rather pluck a few fresh leave off your plant to give your soups a little extra pizzazz?  And guess what – you can also add your Rosemary to that bread you want to bake.  How much better can you get?

Growing most herbs indoors is simple.  Start with a container that is no less than 6” in diameter.  Add approximately ½” of small gravel to the bottom, then fill with a loose potting soil.  (If you are growing Thyme, add a little sand to the potting mix.) Plant the seeds ¼” deep.  If you are beginning with a plant that is already started, then fill your container about half full with soil.  Using two fingers, gently grasp the plant around its main stem and lift from its container.  Continue holding onto the plant and place it in its new home.  Gently add more soil until the soil level is even with the base of the plant.  Lightly water.  As the soil shifts, add more until it is even with the rim of the container. 

Place your new indoor garden in a sunny window sill, insuring the herbs get no less than 6 hours of sunlight a day.  As with all container plants, keep them moist, but not dripping wet.  Container plants have a tendency to dry out quickly, so make watering them part of your daily routine.  Depending on how many you have, this should take a minute or less of your time, yet is well worth the effort.  At least once every three months, offer them a bit of liquid fertilizer.  They can quickly use up any nutrients in the original soil, and to keep them as healthy as possible they will need to be fed occasionally.  If you notice them beginning to wilt, they may need more water.  If the soil stays damp for three or four days, they are getting too much water, which can means nutrients are escaping along with the excess moisture.

A tip on most herbs.  If properly cared for, they can quickly outgrow their pots.  You may want to use the winter months to prepare an outside bed where they can be transplanted in the spring.  Or, you may want to go ahead and set up an area for a container garden, using much larger pots.  Rosemary can grow to be a small tree or shrub, which means it will eventually grow too big to keep on a windowsill.  During the colder months, you can either bring the larger pot inside, put it in a heated greenhouse, or cover it with a mini greenhouse using PVC and clear plastic.  Just remember – if you use this method, you will have to either uncover it on sunny days or provide some type of ventilation.  It may be 30 degrees outside, but inside a mini greenhouse the temperatures can rise enough to kill the plant.  Trust me, I know.  Been there.  Done that.  Did NOT keep the dead tree for show and tell.

Can you smell it yet?  That is a big pot of Vegetable Beef Stew simmering on the stove.  In the oven is a Rosemary bread that you made yourself.  And part of that mouth-watering aroma is contributed by herbs you grew yourself.  Dinner is almost ready.  Can you taste it yet?